Candle treeDear Friends,

Recent events have stoked so much pain and fear in our world, as we witnessed once again senseless violence and loss. I’m on a diet from the news—not to ignore what’s going on, but to maintain some peace in the midst of it. I encourage you to do the same. Take a break from the constant stream of news and commentary. Here’s why:

When we’re not preoccupied with bad news, we’re more inclined to spot the good news. It might be a flower you find on the side of the road, or the favorite song that comes on the radio, or a kind word from the man at the bank. These all may seem like nothing compared to the magnitude of events, but they are something: a bit of grace to sustain us. Let’s attend to these things, and try not to let fear, anger, or sorrow dominate our thoughts.

Rather than quivering against the darkness, let’s stand for the light. It’s okay to turn down the news and turn up the music. It lifts us all when we do. It’ll nourish our souls, and guide us to ways we can help ease the world’s pain and suffering. Here’s a wonderful, true story of one group of people reaching out to another in their sorrow and bringing healing in the process. There truly are ways we can help, and make a difference. Let’s start by affirming the good that prevails despite the tragedies, or as Anne Lamott says, “Grace bats last.”

Now, on to this week’s questions. Thanks for reading.

Maria

 

Dear Maria,

I’m retiring from my job of 22 years in the same place very soon and am training my replacement, who seems to be picking up on everything pretty quickly. She’s very sweet and willing to work. My dilemma is that from now for the next 3 weeks I sort of feel unneeded, unless of course something that happens once a month or only periodically comes up and I can train her on that. I no longer sit at my own desk since my computer with all the other things needed is there. I’m used to doing everything myself. I know I have created my own problem in my head, but I guess I just need to figure out how to be accepting of the feeling and know that it will be over with in a few short weeks. Any suggestions, Maria?

Signed,

Soon to Return to Homemaking

Dear Soon to Return,

Congratulations! 22 years is a big accomplishment, and the way your company is handling the transition says they value your work. They secured your time and attention for sufficient weeks to train the new person, plus anticipate any special situations that may come up. I’ve worked in places where my predecessor left on bad or hasty terms, and piecing together their work trail was so frustrating. I’m glad management honored you, and your position, enough to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The work environment you’ve described, however, is a little awkward. It’s hard to give your work, and work space, to someone else. And, having lost access to a computer or meaningful tasks to pass the time, of course you feel unneeded. Have you spoken to your employers about your situation? Maybe there are some important but not urgent projects you could tackle. How about those files or closets that are a mess because there just wasn’t time? You’re the perfect person, with all your organizational history, to take on projects like that. If there aren’t any projects, or they are unwilling to delegate them to you, then get creative with your time. How do you plan to spend your retirement days? Is there some research you can do (bring in your own tablet or laptop) on travel, classes, hobbies, or volunteer opportunities you’d like to pursue? It would have been bad form to surf the internet before, but now that you’re “on call,” maybe you can do this at your temporary desk.

Don’t be too hard on yourself for “creating my own problem in my head.” Transitions are emotional and stressful, even the happy ones. Being separated from your old command central makes you feel not only unneeded, but sad, too. There’s real grief in saying goodbye to a job you’ve held for over two decades. There may also be some fear in anticipation of full time retirement, how you’ll fill your days, and how things will change with your spouse and/or family. In any case, you are a jumble of feelings right now, all normal. Give yourself permission to cry when you need to, or take a walk outside the office to get some fresh air. Take some deep breaths, and remember, “This too shall pass.” You might whistle this tune when you feel down, and set your sights on the next, rich phase of your life.

 

Dear Maria,

I just lost my husband a week and a half ago after watching him battle his illness for almost 7 weeks in various hospitals. It came on him overnight with absolutely no warning and the outcome was really not what was expected. I spent every day with him during those weeks and some days there was a little bit of him that came through, but most of that time he was barely able to even speak. Some days he rallied and it would seem like we finally turned that magic corner, but then he would have a major setback. We were told his recovery would be slow and long, but God had another plan for him. Like I told our 11 year old granddaughter, “God loved him even more than we did, and he gave him a job to do on earth and apparently he was finished with that job and now God wanted him back home with him.” It is comforting to know that he has reached his eternal home and is where we are all striving to be. I know that God only gave him to me and our family and the rest of the world for a brief time, but he touched so many lives in those short 66 years that he lived that he didn’t even realize. We were married 43 years in April and I feel so blessed that God brought us together all those years ago. I know I have to go on for him, for myself and for our family, and I am discerning how God is wanting to use me through this experience. But I am so sad and keep wanting to turn to my husband to tell him something or ask him a question and then I remember that he is not there. I still talk to him and ask his advice and trust that he will continue to help me, just as I trust in our heavenly Father to walk with me as he has all these weeks and has promised to always be with me. It just hurts so much.

Signed,

Broken Heart

Dear Broken Heart,

I am so, so sorry for your loss. To have your dear partner and friend pass so suddenly at such a young age is a deep blow. This wound is fresh, so please be patient with yourself. Please don’t push yourself to feel or do anything that you think you “should.” Grief is hard work, and the process is ongoing. I’ve shared some musings about grief and loss in prior columns, here and here. I hope they bring you some comfort.

I have a thought about God’s role in your loss. There may be two competing ideas in your heart: one) God took your husband from you, and two) God loves you and will not leave you. I suggest that the second idea will bring you far more comfort than the first. Death is a part of the human condition, and so, unfortunately, it will eventually come, and bring pain to those we love. In my opinion, I don’t believe God has taken your husband, but rather God has been intimately involved in the whole messy, human process. We trust that good will come of this, even if pain blinds us to it in the short term. For now, set your sights on how you may feel God’s love these days: through the love of friends and family, a good night’s sleep, an inspiring hymn, etc.

Your letter is filled with lovely ambitions for how you will grow and serve others because of this experience. That is down the road, dear broken-hearted one. For now, rest, pray, cry when you have to, surround yourself with people who love you and will be gentle with you, eat good food, and get a little exercise when you can. Take each day as it comes, and don’t worry about tomorrow. Go easy on yourself if you suddenly feel tired or weepy, or you turn to ask your husband a question. I still want to call my dad when the Cards play, and it’s 20 years since he passed! Give yourself time to grieve, and eventually the clouds will lift and you’ll find your way. In the words of Vice President Biden, who has endured more than his share of loss: “There will come a day — I promise you — when the thought of your son or daughter, of your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.”

 

Dear Readers,

In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.  This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.